Keeping Ferrets As Pets: Things You Must Know

Ferrets as pets are sociable animals that make wonderful pets, especially if handled and socialized well from an early age. Ferrets make fascinating pets.

They are fun-loving and playful animals, and they are very talented at getting into mischief! They are nosy and cheerful animals with traits similar to those of dogs as well as cats, and they can be easily trained to use a litter box.

Ferrets are not usually hostile if given appropriate care, though little children should be under supervision at all times to avoid nibbling.

Keep reading to discover more about ferrets as pets!

 

What are Facts About Ferrets as Pets?

Ferrets As Pets
Picture of a Pet Ferret

As playful and mischievous animals, ferrets can be entertaining. They are cuddly, interactive, and spunky.

Before you nurse the thought of keeping ferrets as pets, there are a few things you should know:

 

Read also: How do you Keep your House Clean with Pets? Cleaning Tips

 

  1. Ferrets are Just Everywhere:

They burrow, dig, and chew on everything, especially when they’re young, and they often seize and hide items in stockpiles, in closets, under beds, or in any secret place they can find.

If an item isn’t nailed down, particularly objects made of rubber or foam, it will likely end up in your ferret’s mouth.

Foreign objects that are swallowed can lodge in their gastrointestinal (GI) tracts, potentially leading to obstructions. Electrical cords are also a potential hazard.

If you are thinking of getting a ferret, plan to watch him whenever he is out of his cage; make sure you ferret-proof an area in your home where he can safely run around; and put away all shoes, socks, and other interesting items he might find loose on the ground.

  1. Being Energetic Animals, Ferrets Need Lots of Exercises:

While ferrets certainly love to take naps, in between their snoozes, they’re generally running, tumbling, and skidding.

They tend to sleep a lot, from 18 to 20 hours a day, and are most active early in the morning and evening. Young ferrets love to chase toys, nibble on toes, and generally get underfoot.

If they aren’t allowed out of their cages, they tend to overeat and become obese. If you’re going to have a ferret, plan for lots of playtime.

  1. Ferrets Need Friends:

Generally, ferrets are social creatures who usually hunt down the corporate of their human family or other ferrets. Playing is simply a lot more fun when you’re together with your buddies.

For this reason, many ferret owners find themselves getting quite a few. Of course, like other sorts of pets, not all ferrets are like all other ferrets.

If you opt to urge quite one ferret, you’ll get to watch them closely together over several days for progressively longer periods before leaving them alone.

Also, make sure that each ferret has equal access to food, toys, and hiding and sleeping places so that they don’t fight over resources.

  1. Ferrets Are Illegal in Some Places:

Before you adopt or purchase a ferret, check local laws. If you reside in California, Hawaii, or New York City, as an example, you’ll find that these fuzzy fellows are banned.

Many veterinarians in these areas will still treat sick ferrets, but finding a ferret-savvy vet in these locations can sometimes be difficult.

Therefore, if you reside in one of these areas, you would like to think about another sort of pet.

  1. Ferrets Should Be Vaccinated:

In many of the states where ferrets are legal, the law requires that they be vaccinated for rabies.

Also, since ferrets are very vulnerable to the deadly distemper virus that commonly affects dogs, they ought to receive vaccinations against this virus as well.

Just like puppies, baby ferrets should get a series of three distemper vaccines three weeks apart, starting at 2 months old; they ought to get their first rabies shot at approximately 4 months old.

After that, they should get annual booster vaccines against both rabies and distemper viruses for life, even if they are indoor pets.

Even though your ferret lives indoors, you’ll track the distemper virus from outside on your shoes and garments. Your indoor pet can also come into contact with wildlife, which can carry the rabies virus.

 

Caring for Ferrets as Pets: Facts About the Ferret’s Smell

Ferrets are inherently clean animals, well known for their musky odour. It never loses its smell, no matter how many times he gets a bath.

This scent is far worse in unneutered ferrets, but luckily most of the domestic ferrets in North America are neutered at the time of weaning, so we don’t have to worry about this.

  • They even have a pair of anal glands, almost like cats and dogs, with very strong-smelling secretions.
  • They rarely express these anal glands unless they are very scared, and therefore the scent often goes away after a couple of minutes.
  • Again, most ferrets you find around here have already had these glands surgically removed, so you only have to deal with a mild musky odour from the oils in the skin.
  • Bathing should not be consistent—at most once or twice a month. Bathing a ferret shreds its skin and coats all of the natural (mildly stinky) oils, which will cause the body to overcompensate and keep producing more and more.
  • Ferrets tend to smell more if frequently bathed. They usually do a pretty good job of cleaning themselves, much like a cat.
  • If you give them a bowl of water, they’re going to use it to wash their faces.
  • Bathing is, however, good for relieving itchiness caused by fleas or dry skin. A pet-friendly shampoo and warm bathwater are advised for bathing a ferret.

 

Read also: Detailed Explanation of Ferret Colours

 

What is Ferret’s Diet?

What can ferrets possibly eat? Ferrets are stringent carnivores. In the wild, they prey on and eat whole animals that contain meat, raw bones, other tissue, and digested substances.

They need a diet of meat and animal products that are very high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates and fibre. There are some retail ferret foods available in Australia, but it is a daunting task to get a hold of them.

Offer raw, meaty bones only fit for human consumption once a week or on weekends. Provide human-grade raw meat to avoid harmful preservatives in pet meat. As pets have a quick metabolism, they require frequent food.

It is important to avoid giving your ferret cooked bones because they can splinter and cause harm inside their body.

Also, make sure that any raw meaty bones you give are large enough so that your ferret cannot fit the entire bone in its mouth or try to swallow it whole. This will help prevent any potential complications.

Please ask your vet first if raw meaty bones are suitable for your ferret (e.g., some ferrets with dental disease may have difficulty chewing on raw bones).

If you would like to treat your ferret, small pieces of meat are the simplest option. Clean freshwater is of the essence and should be made available at all times in big bowls.

Nutritional supplements are not necessarily needed; hence, they have a balanced diet.

Ferrets are very curious animals and like to chew; hence, one has to be careful of objects around the home or in their cage that may lure them.

Swallowed objects can cause ileus. Also, ensure pets cannot eat anything toxic, like Xylitol found in sugar-free gum and baking goods.

 

What are the Common Diseases That Affect Ferrets as Pets?

Though fun, fascinating, and always handy at mischief, ferrets make great pets, but you also need to be aware of the diseases they are vulnerable to and how to prevent them.

Some common conditions of pet ferrets include diarrhoea, distemper, human influenza, parasites, ringworm, and various types of cancer.

  • Diarrhea: Diarrhea is not a disease but an indication of a gastrointestinal problem, which can have many causes. Intestinal parasites can cause diarrhoea in ferrets, as well as viruses and intestinal foreign bodies.
    Proliferative colitis is a disease of young ferrets caused by a Campylobacter bacterium and results in mucous-like diarrhoea containing blood.
    The animal may also show anorexia (loss of appetite), weight loss, lethargy, and depression. Diarrhea in ferrets is often treated with several different medications, depending on the cause.
    Infectious causes of diarrhoea are treated with antibiotics, and fluid and electrolyte replacement may be required if they are severe.
    Never give your ferret any medications or home treatments without checking with your veterinarian first and obtaining a proper diagnosis.
  • Distemper: The disease is 100% fatal in ferrets, and every ferret should be vaccinated against distemper at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, then yearly.
    The period is 7–10 days, and clinical signs are almost like those within the dog, with thick eye and nasal discharges, fever, and loss of appetite.
    Often, there is a rash under the chin and groin area. The terminal phase of the disease is characterized by central nervous system signs, including muscle tremors, convulsions, coma, and death.
    Affected ferrets must be isolated from other susceptible animals, and supportive treatment could also be started until the diagnosis of distemper is certain, when euthanasia could also be recommended.
  • Human influenza: Ferrets are also susceptible to the human influenza virus (flu). The incubation period is only 24–48 hours, and the course of the disease is usually 5 days.
    Clinical signs are similar to those of people with the flu (and to the early signs of distemper): nasal discharge, sneezing, fever, and loss of appetite.
    Treatment consists of decongestants and antibiotics if there is a secondary bacterial infection. Occasionally, fluid therapy may be required.
    Never give any human flu medications, as ferrets, like dogs and cats, are often easily poisoned or killed. Isolate-affected ferrets, especially young ferrets, can be more severely affected by the disease.
  • Intestinal foreign bodies: Intestinal foreign bodies are a common problem, especially in young ferrets, due to their inquisitive nature. Many home items, like furniture stuffing, rubber bands, and parts of shoes and toys that are easily chewed into pieces and swallowed, can all cause ileus.
    Signs of obstruction are common in several ferret diseases and include anorexia, vomiting, lethargy, diarrhoea, and gradual weight loss. Severe and projectile vomiting indicates a complete intestinal obstruction.
    Any of these symptoms are cause for concern and should be immediately investigated by your veterinarian for an early diagnosis. Treatment of intestinal foreign bodies usually requires prompt surgical removal.
  • Parasites: Like dogs and cats, ferrets are also vulnerable to worm infections. Your vet can recommend a suitable worming product, and a yearly microscopic examination of the droppings by your vet is recommended.
    External parasites like fleas, ticks, mange, and ear mites can also infect ferrets.
    Treatments utilized in ferrets are equivalent to those used in dogs and cats, and where appropriate, use those formulated for puppies and kittens.
    Ferrets are also a natural host for the heartworm, Dirofilaria immitis, and should be placed on a heartworm preventative as recommended by your vet.
  • Ringworm: Ringworm is occasionally seen in ferrets, and signs of infection, as in dogs and cats, are a circular area of hair loss with some scaly patches around the edges.
    Ringworm can be transmitted to other pets and people so it is important to have the diagnosis confirmed by your vet.
    Special cultures of the skin, scales, and hair had to be performed to differentiate the disease from other skin conditions with similar signs.
    Treatment involves medicated shampoos, topical (external) medications, and oral medication in severe cases.
  • Cancer: Ferrets can develop cancer earlier in life compared to dogs and cats, sometimes as early as one year of age.
    The more common cancers that occur in ferrets are cancer of the pancreas (insulinoma), adrenal gland tumours, and lymphosarcoma (cancer of the lymph nodes and lymphocytic white blood cells).
    Any lump or abnormal swelling should be immediately investigated by your vet to detect cancer.
    Many cancers in ferrets are often treated successfully by surgery, medical chemotherapy, or a mixture of both if diagnosed early.

 

Read also: The Role of Pets in Student Stress Relief

 

Conclusion

Ferrets as pets are excellent for people who have the time for them, and who bond well with animals. Ferrets are naturally quiet, friendly, inquisitive, intelligent, and companionable.

At certain points in the day, they are also exceedingly active and capable of getting themselves into trouble unless they’re supervised.

Thank you for reading!

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